The wave of expulsions of Soviet diplomats and other espionage-related charges by Western countries is seen here as a political and propaganda "guerrilla war" against Moscow waged by the United States in an effort to destabilize the new Soviet regime and weaken its positions abroad.
The Soviets have been responding to the recent onslaught of such news according to the tenets of damage control. The attitude has been to do nothing that could aggravate an already bad situation.
This cool and pragmatic restraint seems based partly on hopes that the diplomatic expulsions and charges, such as today's accusations by Sweden that Soviet submarines were in its waters last fall, would turn out to be one-day wonders likely to be forgotten in a week's time. But these are only hopes.
A more fundamental reason for Moscow's restraint is the absence of workable alternatives and the desire to preserve a modicum of detente in Europe.
Yet it appears that Moscow is stunned by western actions that included the expulsions of Soviet personnel from France, Australia, Britain, Italy, the United States and Spain--all in a relatively short period. There have been allegations of Soviet KGB secret police activities in other places in Western Europe, as well as Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia.
As the Soviets see it, the recent expulsions and related public charges of activities of KGB agents in various countries have been carefully coordinated by the Reagan administration to create a climate of tensions in which the planned deployment of new U.S. nuclear missiles in Europe could proceed without difficulties.
According to this thinking, the focus put on the KGB during the past six weeks may have been directed against Soviet Communist Party leader Yuri Andropov, who came to power last November after serving for 15 years as the head of the KGB.
The Soviets are clearly concerned that adverse publicity could have a cumulative effect on western perceptions of Soviet foreign and defense policies and weaken Moscow's influence with western antinuclear groups it has been wooing in an effort to block the deployment of the new U.S. missiles.
Today's charges by Sweden about the repeated entry of Soviet submarines in territorial waters last fall are particularly disturbing because Sweden is a neutral country and because the peace movement is strong in Scandinavia.
That the Soviets were restrained in retaliation against western countries that expelled Soviet diplomats can be explained by Moscow's desire to avoid any escalation of tensions. To do otherwise, as one Soviet source put it, would be "playing Reagan's game."
Instead, Moscow has taken the high road, seeking to preserve what are called here "the positive aspects" of its relations with western capitals.
In his first interview with a western publication, Andropov last week said he wanted to secure Moscow's "broader interests." Speaking about the recent expulsion from France of 47 Soviet diplomats, officials and journalists, Andropov, in the interview with the West German magazine Der Spiegel, made it clear that the Soviets would not retaliate in kind against French diplomats and journalists in Moscow.
That, he said, "would be the easiest thing to do." But, he continued, "in exercising restraint we are guided by the broad interests of the Soviet-French relations, which we hold dear and which evolved over a long period of time, and by the interests of preserving detente in Europe.
"We were guided by sober political discretion and the desire to prevent a deterioration of French-Soviet relations, and we took a broader view of things than that of this narrow local conflict," he said.